Central Kruzof Island Ground-truthing Trip - November 2012
Iris Meadows, Central Kruzof Island
GROUND-TRUTHING THE NEXT RESTORATION PRIORITY CENTRAL KRUZOF ISLAND - NOVEMBER 2012 The Trip Journal Caveat: This purpose of this trip journal report is to capture and save any insights or learnings from our field excursions. It is never meant to stand alone as my (Scott Harris’) opinion or SCS’s position. It is our hope that it will generate discussion and be used in the future to jog our memories. Recommendations are included at the end (page 22).
Background In the Sitka Community Use Area, the USFS Watershed Condition Framework* has identified the Central Kruzof - Iris Meadows area as the next priority for watershed restoration work. The social priorities survey we conducted at SCS also identified the Central Kruzof area as the #3 priority for restoration. Therefore, the next step was to “ground-truth” or investigate on-theground opportunities for restoration work in this area. The Kruzof Island Landscape Assessment was completed in 2006 and serves as an initial introduction to the project area. The Sitka Ranger
“After all the visits I had made District started to public lands before in the more detailed assessments in the lower 48, it wasn’t until coming Summer of 2012. here to Sitka, and seeing it first We didn’t make it hand on Kruzof Island, that I on those trips. So really understood what public lands are really about.” - from I sat down with Marty Becker and Erin Fulton’s blog post http:// sitkawild.org/2012/12/puttingChris Leeseberg, and had a separate the-public-back-in-public-lands/ conversation with Craig Buehler, to get briefed on the initial plans and needed assessment work for this project. The Sitka Collaborative Stewardship Group (SCSG) conducted a stakeholder trip, complete with ATV riding, in July 2012. That trip The Sitka Collaborative Stewardship Group, coordinated by Zia Brucaya, visited the Central Kruzof Project Area to assess and learn about maintaining and improving recreational opportunities, Summer 2012. Photo by Mim McConnell (at far left), the Mayor of Sitka.
* More information on the USFS Watershed Condition Framework (WCF) can be accessed at http://www. fs.fed.us/publications/watershed/. The WCF focuses primarily on aquatic habitat condition and needs.
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radio hill cinder cone
from Karl (2004 unpublished) geology map
reviewed recreational opportunities, particularly around the North Beach cabin. That trip resulted in a successful RAC project for fixing some ATV trail issues. The SCSG also provided some additional recommendations, which are included at the end of this report as an appendix. NEPA for the ecological work will start early 2013. Restoration design will occur in 2014 and stream work would occur in 2015. Thinning and in-house (what FS calls “Force Account”) work can start as early as Summer 2013. Of course, all these estimates are subject to the vagaries of the federal budgeting process.
Objectives We had an ambitious set of specific objectives for a 3-day trip with only about 8 hours of effective daylight per day. Our general objectives were to assess the various stream and forest restoration
opportunities. We also wanted to have an “ATV experience” to better understand the motorized recreation scene. The Mud Bay road system is the most popular motorized rec area away from town. I was particularly interested in walking streams because of the unique volcanic geology of Kruzof Island. We tried to recruit Collaborative Stewardship Group participants for this trip, but were unsuccessful due to the time of year. So we ended up being an SCS crew. Erin Fulton is doing a lot of mapping work, and had not yet been on the island. Paul Norwood, naturalist and all-around outdoor guy, filled out our 3-person crew.
Bedrock and Surficial Geology There are three good references for the geology of the project area. The most recent is: Unit descriptions for digital map of Southeast
Central Kruzof Island Ground-truthing Trip - November 2012
This is as far as we got up the Radio Hill cinder cone (also called Tower Hill). The lapilli (ash fall) is white due to frost in this photo. Under the frost it was brownish-orange. We later realized this is FS Road 3175922 - which was not mapped on the GIS road layer I was using.
Alaska, Karl, update 5/24/04. This is still unpublished and used by permission only. Two earlier references are the USFS pamphlet (1996): The Mount Edgecumbe Volcanic Field - A Geologic History (a very good read) and Geologic Map of the Mount Edgecumbe Volcanic Field, Kruzof Island, Southeastern Alaska (1989). I will refer to the Karl map for this report because it includes the most detailed information. However, the descriptions donâ€™t include all the rock codes, so some are deciphered (and hopefully verified by Jim Baichtl). The geology map shows that the project area is mostly pre-volcanic sitka graywacke (Tks - Cretaceous) and tonalite/grandiorite (Tet early Tertiary) - an igneous inclusive rock type also referred to as the Kruzof Island pluton. According to the references, on the contact areas the graywacke shows thermal metamorphism. The bedrock geology south of the project area is covered by surficial volcanic deposits. I found references for and we observed areas of ashfall deposit scattered throughout the areas we travelled as well. Nowacki (2001) describes 50% of the Sitka Sound ecological subsection as being covered by ash and volcanic deposits. These deposits are from Mount Edgecumbe Volcanic Field eruptions 9,000 - 12,000 (i.e. post-glacial) years ago that covered the area in 2-6 feet of ash.
Therefore, the influence of ash on drainage, soil development, and tree growth is probably significant. The Landscape Assessment mentions ash but does not specifically describe effects on forest regeneration. Ash produces a mineral soil, and therefore potentially better drained than organic soils on flat ground. Greg Killinger mentioned that some young growth stands on Kruzof get up to 10,000 stems per acre! Anecdotally, my experience from my farming neighbors in Patagonia indicate ash can substantially increase plant growth. The Hudson Volcano erupted in 1992 and covered the region in ash. For the next several growing seasons through today, the farmers say the grass grows better. Probably the most pertinent characteristic to note is that the Q-codes in the map (and the unmapped interspersed ashfall) are all volcanic in origin and that some are in areas that were not glacial. The Qa in Iris Meadows is probably unconsolidated alluvium (i.e. - not ashfall). Qb is Quaternary basalt - low viscosity and therefore typically flatish. Qafu is probably Quaternary andesitic ash flow and ash fall unconsolidated deposits - higher on the viscosity scale than basalt. The radio hill cinder cone is Pleistocene basalt and basaltic andesite air-fall tuffs. These are
4 • Central Kruzof Island Ground-truthing Trip - November 2012 postglacial ashfall from volcanic vents that consist of mixed orange (basalt) and gray (basaltic andesite) “scoriaceous lapilli”. Lapilli are droplets of molten or semi-molten lava ejected from a volcanic eruption that fall to earth while still at least partially molten - liquid rock cooling as it travels through the air. Why does this matter? Drainage is one of the most significant factors in determining forest regeneration and the geology influences drainage. Some of the more productive forests we saw were on Qafu, but that was just a snapshot view from the road.
Project Area We learned later that the project area includes the whole Kruzof road system and parts of
Krestof and Partofshikof Islands. We visited the other areas in previous years. Those field journal reports are included at the end of this report. On the map, I’ve arbitrarily divided the project area into three sub-areas, based on these separate field trips. See the map on this page. Unfortunately much of this trip journal was written several weeks after our survey. Therefore, the 3 days will be presented primarily through route maps and photos. A quick synopsis of each day is included below.
Restoration Opportunities There are ample opportunities for both forest and stream restoration within the project area. I don’t address any watershed scale assessments in this report, but only point out that any restoration
The project area includes 6 12-digit HUCs encompassed in the areas in outline on this map. I tweaked the boundaries to only show the areas with roads and managed forest stands because that’s where the work will take place. I also divided the project area into 3 sub-areas, based on Groundtruthing trips we’ve done.
Central Kruzof Island Ground-truthing Trip - November 2012
work needs to consider the watershed and landscape context, including considerations for habitat connectivity. In the Central Kruzof project sub-area, a GIS analysis calculated 4,900 acres of mostly (Iâ€™ll assume all) clearcut harvest between 1967 and 1973. Those harvest units, which are now young growth are shown in red on the project area map. Much of the original forest harvested was prime deer habitat. The map on this page shows the Tongass Habitat Suitability Index (HSI) for this area. The HSI ranks winter deer habitat based on the variables of forest cover, elevation, distance from shoreline, and aspect. The darker shade of green signifies relatively higher quality winter deer habitat. Note that the dark green shading overlaps nearly perfectly with the areas harvested! Because the harvest occurred before the enactment of TTRA, many streams were logged to the banks and even experienced some stream cleaning.
The stream restoration opportunity. This is a logged (above) and unlogged (below) reach of Shelikof Creek. The unlogged reach can serve as a reference of prelogging conditions. The logged reach is an oversimplified channel that experienced stream cleaning (logs intentionally removed to facilitate moving equipment in the streambed).
Some of these young growth stands have already experienced some wildlife habitat restoration. In the early 90â€™s, this was one of the first areas to have artificial gaps created and areas that were not thinned to maintain wildlife travel corridors.. To my knowledge, these treatments have not been monitored. Greg Killinger was involved with these treatments and would be a good person to consult when we decide to conduct monitoring.
Our Route Our route can be seen on the map on the next page, and here is a short synopsis for each day.
November 25, 2012 Mud Bay Road, Iris Meadows Creek and The Tongass Habitat Suitability Index shows the relatively high value winter deer upland forest, Stands habitat in darker green. Harvested stands are outlined in purple. 180, 455, 466, 467
6 • Central Kruzof Island Ground-truthing Trip - November 2012 The Mud Bay “trailhead” is a popular spot. When we arrived, there were 2 trollers and a skiff tied up together on the buoy, and another skiff tied up to a make-shift buoy. We anchored in 13 fathoms over a mud bottom. We rented a utility and rino ATV from Ken Rear. There were at least a dozen other ATVs at the parking site. We dropped our gear off at the cabin. The previous occupants were still there - a family on a 3-day hunting trip. They had taken 2 deer on the Twin Lake Road system. Then we cruised up Road 317590, the road that parallels Iris Meadows, on the east side. We stopped at the junction with Road 3175901 and walked. We wanted to get an idea of prior forest condition by visiting an old growth leave strip. This is always tricky because the locations for these leave strips were often chosen because they had smaller and/or less valuable trees than the rest of the stand. We also wanted to visit Iris Meadows Creek where potential restoration activities were planned.
Mud Bay trailhead
November 26, 2012 Twin Lakes Road, North Beach Creek, Shelikof Creek, Stands 65. 120, 180, 321, 460, 462 We travelled up Road 317591 to check out young growth stands and upper North Beach Creek. Then we travelled this Road all the way to the pass before the first Twin Lake. Along the way, we hunted a fen along the road in Stands 65/321. We chatted briefly with 2 men on an ATV setting marten traps. We later saw their traps along most of the roads and near the cabin. In the late afternoon, I walked part of Shelikof Creek while Paul and Erin conducted a COASST (beached birds) survey on Shelikof Beach. They didn’t find any beached birds. We got back to the cabin at dark.
November 27, 2012 Ridge Road (FS Road 3175903 - parallel to Iris Meadows), Tower Hill Roads, Shelikof Creek, Stands 180, 274, 460
Our 3-day route
We hiked up Road 3175903. We flushed one deer along the road. This was only the second continued on page 22.....
Central Kruzof Island Ground-truthing Trip - November 2012
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Notes for photos on page 7: Map on top shows harvested stands and stand numbers. Photos 1 and 3: Old growth leave strip between stands 181 and 467. We assumed if there were any deer in this area they would be here. We called and immediately saw this buck at 40 yards. We hoped this leave strip would be a good reference for pre-harvest forest condition, but often leave strips were left where the trees were not worth harvesting. Photo 2: Road 3175901 to this point and possibly beyond is still usable by ATVs. Photo 4: Stand 467 was harvested in 1970 and thinned in 1991 to 14x and 18x spacing with gaps, thickets, and unthinned corridors. This is an unthinned corridor or thicket. Unfortunately we didnâ€™t walk in to the surrounding stands, but from the aerial they appear to be low productivity (small trees). Photo 5: Fens like this are interspersed across the landscape, providing critical edge habitat and in general habitat complexity. In the aerial this one is brownish - distinguishing it from similar textures in the aerial. Stand 180 was harveted in 1969 and thinned in 1982 to 14x spacing. After securing our deer, we hiked Road 317590 to where it crossed upper Iris Meadows Creek. This is still an anadromous reach, as mapped. We also found salmon bones. Unfortunately we only had enough time to look at this reach of the stream. On a future trip it would be nice to walk the stream all the way down to Iris Meadows. Notes for photos on page 9: Map on top shows harvested stands and stand numbers. Photo 1: Iris Meadows Creek at the road crossing. Mapped MM - moderate gradient mixed control process group. There is a floodplain reach below this one, that is still within stand 455. I wasnâ€™t sure if both or one of these reaches is a target for restoration work. We saw very little in-stream large wood. SRD also mentioned doing some riparian thinning somewhere on upper Iris Meadows Creek. Photo 2: Floodplain forest vegetation, also showing stump sizes of original riparian forest. Photo 3: Stand 455 was harvested in 1970 and thinned in 1992 to 14x and 18x spacing with gaps, thickets, and unthinned corridors. From the roadside, we could size some nice-sized trees in this stand. This is on a slope and probably has better drainage than the stands along Road 3175901.
Central Kruzof Island Ground-truthing Trip - November 2012
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Central Kruzof Island Ground-truthing Trip - November 2012
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Notes for photos on pages 10 and 11: Map on top right shows harvested stands and stand numbers. Photo 1: The view from the North Beach Cabin. There were lots of ATV tracks on the beach. There is a high berm at the edge of the beach. Some ATV’s accessed the beach from here, although the official beach access is east of the cabin. The trail to that access point, through the forest, has substantial erosion (see the SCSG trip report). Photo 2: The ford across North Beach Creek. We didn’t see that big rock! Photo 3: The slope break in Stand 460. Stand 460 was harvested in 1972 and thinned in 1991 to 14x and 18x spacing with gaps and thickets. Photo 4: Stand 460 between the road and the creek, showing stem-excluded spruce. Potential for riparian thinning? Photo 5: North Beach Creek. FP - flood plain process group. There was no logging along this reach. Photo 6: Large fen-complex north and west of North Beach. North Beach Creek flows along the hillside on far left. Photo 7: Stand 460. Unthinned corridor or thicket on the left and thinned on the right, showing response to thinning. We saw several unthinned corridors from the road. The tree regeneration on the slope seemed very good - this photo shows “typical” regeneration. Again, we were only looking at the stands adjacent to the road.
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Central Kruzof Island Ground-truthing Trip - November 2012
Notes for photos on pages 12 and 13: Map shows harvested stands and stand numbers. Process groups are also mapped. Note that the streams don’t match with the aerial basemap nor our photo points positions. The road layer does line up well. Photo 1: Upper North Beach Creek Photo 2: Typical substrate in the FP reaches of the creeks we visited on this trip. Photo 3: This reach is not mapped as logged. In this area, there are scattered sections of dense young growth spruce - riparian thinning opportunity? Photo 4: Young growth spruce stand in the flood plain. Stand 463 was harvested in 1973 and had 2 thinning entries: 1990 (152 acres) to 12x spacing and 2005 (66 acres) to 18x respacing. Photo 5: Upper North Beach Creek still within the floodplain process group reach. Photo 6: FP - MM (moderate gradient mixed control) transition. Stand 462 was harvested in 1972 and thinned in 1991, but I couldn’t find any details on the prescription. Photo 7: Tephra/ash parent material providing much of the substrate in the deposition reaches. Photo 8: This was the highest, about 3m, of the potential barriers to fish migration. Photo 9: Although it’s a small floodplain, this is still mapped MM, in Stand 120. Stand 120 was harvested in 1972 and thinned in 1993 to 14x and 18x spacing with gaps, thickets, and unthinned corridors. Is the incised channel “normal” or exacerbated by logging?
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Notes for photos on this page: Map shows harvested stands and stand numbers. Photo 1: Looking at Stand 227 from the ridge above the Twin Lakes valley (FS Road 3175915). Stand 227 was harvested in 1973 and thinned to 14x in 1992. Photos 2 and 3: Stand 65 looking west and on the road. Stand 65 was harvested in 1973 and thinned in 1993 to 14x and with gaps, thickets, and unthinned corridors. This photo shows poor regen. Probably no need to enter this stand if its the same throughout. Photo 4: The road within Stand 65.
Central Kruzof Island Ground-truthing Trip - November 2012
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Notes for photos on pages 15 and 16: Map shows harvested stands and stand numbers. This is lower Shelikof Creek immediately upstream of the recently installed bridge. These are all within Stand 180, which was harveted in 1969 and thinned in 1981 to 14x spacing. Stand 180 is very large - 1035 acres, and it was thinned in two blocks - in 1981 and 1982. This whole reach is mapped FP - flood plain process group. Photo 1: This bridge was installed within the last couple years, under USFS contract. It was questioned because it only allows narrow-clearance vehicles, which limit the opportunities for future restoration, road, and timber work on west-central Kruzof. Photo 2: Mapped FP, although the channel is contained on the south bank. Photo 3: The channel alternates between uncontained and contained on one bank. Photo 4: Stump size along the stream gives an idea of riparian forest condition prior to harvest Photo 5: Alder dominates much of the riparian forest immediately adjacent to the stream. The extent of alder can be seen in the aerial.
Central Kruzof Island Ground-truthing Trip - November 2012 1
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Notes for photos on pages 17 and 18: Map shows harvested stands and stand numbers. These photos are all withing Stand 180, along FS Road 3175903. Photo 1: Looking west across Upper Iris Meadows. Stand 460 can be seen against the hill in the background. Stand 180 covers the hill in the foreground. Note the variable, but fairly low productivity of Stand 180. Photo 2: Stand 180 from the road. The light green patches seen in the aerial are low productivity stands like this one. These areas of Stand 180 are not worth any restoration effort. Photo 3: The road within Stand 180. This road is a great hike - occasional open views toward Shelikof Bay and Cinder Cone (Tower) Hill. Has ATV access if a bold ATVer crosses the logpile at the road junction. Photo 4: A higher productivity stand within Stand 180 - showing the high degree of variability. The differences in productivity can be seen on the aerial. Therefore, there may be dispersed restoration opportunities here. This is a ridge thatâ€™s exposed to the prevailing SE winds - possibly having reduced snow load. Photo 5: An old growth patch that was not harvested. This can serve as a reference for restoration work. Some deer forage and lots of salmonberry.
Central Kruzof Island Ground-truthing Trip - November 2012
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Notes for photos on page 19 and 20: Map shows “middle” Shelikof Creek. This is the section Marty Becker identified as having some restoration needs. It could be difficult to work here because of access. This whole reach is mapped LC - low gradient contained process group. I’m still not sure of the threshold between FP and LC, because the “lower” Shelikof Creek we visited had some single bank containment. Photos 1 and 7 show the best comparison I’ve seen of the a logged versus unlogged stream. Photo 1: Simplified channel with banks dominated by alder. Photo 2: Stump size gives an idea of the pre-logging riparian forest. Photo 3: Evidence of stream-cleaning? We saw several stream-side logs cut off like this. Photo 4: Spruce-dominated riparian forest on a terrace. Potential spot for additional thinning to rerelease future sources of LWD. Photo 5: We saw abundant bear sign along this reach. At one point, a bear splashed across the river in front of us. We didn’t see the bear, but water was filling in its tracks! Photo 6: Substrate in most of the deposition reaches of the stream. Would LW in the stream help with localized scour and expose more spawning-sized gravels? Photo 7: Immediately upstream of the end of the harvest unit. Photo 8: This was the most pleasant section of an otherwise nasty young growth bushwack. D5. In general, the light-green, smooth-textured sections on the aerials are very dense, small young growth trees.
Central Kruzof Island Ground-truthing Trip - November 2012
Notes for photos on page 21: Map shows harvested stands and stand numbers. Photo 1: Stand 274 was harvested in 1967 and this section was thinned in 1981 to 14x spacing. This was some of the most productive tree regeneration we saw on generally flat ground. The adjacent road (FS Road 317592) is well-maintained. This would be a good candidate for commercial thinning or pruning or opening up as a firewood stand if that ever becomes feasible. The only caveat is that we only saw the stands immediately adjacent to the road.
22 • Central Kruzof Island Ground-truthing Trip - November 2012 deer we saw during the 3-day trip. Then we walked the middle section of Shelikof Creek. We finished the day with a quick trip up the Tower Hill Road.
Recommendations Based on discussions with SRD staff, Sitka Collaborative Stewardship Group (SCSG) members, and our field trips over the past several years, we suggest the following: Recreational Opportunities The SCSG field trip summary, attached as an appendix, list several recommendations for the Central Kruzof area. These are especially pertinent because they’ve been vetted through the SCSG, which includes members of several local stakeholder groups such as the City, Sitka Tribe, etc. Work has already been completed on the Eagle
Bay road system. In previous comments, we suggested developing multi-user opportunities by maintaining the road for ATV use up to the lake and for non-motorized use beyond the lake. It appears that the USFS did just that, which we applaud. The Sitka Rural Advisory Committee seems to provide an opportunity for an organized recreational or ATV group to share the effort of Mud Bay road maintenance. This would have the added benefit of engaging an additional recreational user group in resource stewardship. The challenge is that we don’t yet have an organized ATV group in Sitka. If the RAC is reauthorized, it would be fairly easy for a group to get funds for this type of work. Maybe SCS could take this on? Landscape-scale considerations Project planning should take place at the
15-16 July, 2008
25-27 November, 2012
The journals from Groundtruthing Trips to other parts of the Project Area are included as appendices
Central Kruzof Island Ground-truthing Trip - November 2012 landscape and watershed scales. While this seems to be the case at the SRD, we encourage the sharing of this level of planning with the community. The location of restoration efforts in young growth stands (skips and gaps, variable thinning) should consider connectivity between high-value habitats.
Community Capacity-building for Restoration: This project is funded in part by the National Forest Foundation (NFF) Community Capacity and Land Stewardship Grant. From the NFF website: the NFF is administering [these] USDA agency funds to provide capacity building support for local collaborative efforts that work toward achieving watershed restoration objectives within the geographic focus areas. The purpose of this grant program is to provide the tools and support necessary to achieve watershed and landscape scale restoration while also furthering goals that contribute to the economic sustainability of communities
Infrastructure The new bridge crossing Shelikof Creek limits the size of equipment, and hence impacts the cost and effectiveness, of future restoration, maintenance, and timber harvest opportunities. Levels of infrastructure maintenance should consider future potential opportunities.
Gaps Gaps and unthinned corridors created over 20 years ago should be assessed before any new restoration is conducted. These gap assessments should then be considered along with the results of Paul Alaback’s gap study on POW. We should also study the effectiveness of gaps in the Todd area (Peril Strait) because those include the most complete monitoring dataset for gaps on the North Tongass. Our very cursory look at gaps in the Gilmer Bay area showed that “hemlock-flush” is not really a problem, but that salmonberry can dominate and inhibit the regeneration of winter deer forage. While the prescription of 20 years ago was visionary, the placement of the gaps seemed haphazard. We suggest that if greater care is taken to locate gap treatments, we will have much greater success. As a minimum, we should locate and make qualitative assessments of these 20-year-old gaps in the project area, with an emphasis on identifying location variables that increase effectiveness.
We also suggest meeting with some of the “experts” on gaps: Paul Alaback, Ray Slayton at the Thorne Bay District, Chris Leeseberg at the Sitka Ranger District, Greg Killinger at the SO, and Bob Christensen (and maybe others) to develop a simple “gap location decision matrix” that will help locate gap treatments. This group could also capture much of the shared knowledge about this treatment on the Tongass. Monitoring A robust effectiveness monitoring program should be developed in the project planning phase. This should include considerations for collecting baseline or pre-implementation data, which is an often overlooked critical step. A monitoring plan should also include a framework for incorporating information into the adaptive management cycle, and including the community in these efforts. And monitoring and adaptive management should be fully funded. SCS would be eager to participate in any monitoring efforts and help involve community members. Young growth utilization Considerations should be made for utilizing the byproducts of restoration and thinning work in young growth stands. This could include small-
24 • Central Kruzof Island Ground-truthing Trip - November 2012 scale experimentation with young growth wood products, or identifying stands where locals can collect firewood. Wood byproducts of restoration However, any removal of slash and material from restoration projects should consider the full ecological costs and benefits. In other words, it’s not just about the deer. Leaving material in the forest can have ecological benefits to other species and processes. Stream substrate It is our understanding that this is a unique stream substrate (small gravel, volcanic in origin). We hope to learn more about the challenges of restoring salmon habitat in these types of streams and encourage the SRD to continue educating us!
Appendices 1. Sitka Collaborative Stewardship Group July 27 Trip Summary (written by Zia Brucaya) 2. SCSG comments for the Kruzof Planning Process 3. Groundtruthing Field Trip Journal for the Eagle River - Gilmer Bay Area (written by Richard Carstensen) 4. Krestof Island Groundtruthing Field Trip Journal
Birds Paul Norwood kept a bird list: Common loon - 2 Horned grebe - 1 (Black Rock) Pelagic cormorant - 4 Double-crested cormorant - 2 Mallard - 50, mostly in rivers Greater scaup - 30 (Sitka Channel) long-tailed duck - 50 (Sitka Channel) Surf Scoter - 20 White-winged scoter - 10 scoters, sp. - 50 Barrow’s goldeneye - 8 (Port Krestof) Bald eagle - 12 (including 3 in rivers) Black oystercatcher - one group of 7 (Near Parker
group) Black turnstone - 1 gulls, sp. - 40 Common murre - 25 marbled murrelet - 12 (6 in Mud Bay) Belted kingfisher - 2 (in rivers) Hairy woodpecker - 1 (Kruzof) Steller’s jay - 10 Northwestern crow - 12 Common raven - 20 chestnut-backed chickadee - 3 Winter wren - 10 American dipper - 6 golden-crowned kinglet - 20, mostly heard Varied thrush - 8 pine siskin - 3 crossbill, sp. - one small flock No great blue heron No sparrows or juncos!
Additional Reference Nowacki, G. Krosse, P.; Fisher, G.; Brew, D.; Brock, T.; Shephard, M.; Pawuk, W.;Baichtal, J.; and Kissinger, E. 2001. Ecological Subsections of Southeast Alaska and Neighboring Areas of Canada. USDA Forest Service, Alaska Region. Technical Publication No. R10-TP-75.
Sitka Collaborative Stewardship Group Kruzof Island Field Trip Summary July 27, 2012 Objectives: 1. Strengthen working relationships between land managers and the community. 2. Build a shared understanding of assets, opportunities, and challenges on Kruzof Island related to recreation, subsistence, restoration, timber, tourism, etc. 3. Increase public awareness of current projects and future opportunities on Kruzof. 4. Begin to identify broadly supported community management priorities.
Site Visits and Discussion: •
Resurfaced main road and new water bars o TM Construction resurfaced the main road to USFS specs in summer 2012, and added numerous waterbars to minimize erosion. Our group navigated the waterbars fairly easily on Ken’s ATVs, but other ATV riders and bikers have complained that the waterbars are too deep and steep. o Overall consensus was that the road is very much improved. o One issue brought up by business and rec users is that the new bridges are now too narrow for large equipment to pass over, meaning that future improvements in the area might be difficult (USFS staff said that the bridges were narrowed because the main road is now considered a “trail” rather than a road).
Tower Road and the cinder cone o The group toured Tower Road to see an example of an un-‐maintained road. This road is heavily used by ATVs because it leads up to the cinder cone, a favorite place to ride. Each year, ATV riders clear and level the road as much as they can on their own, but it is very bumpy.
Iris Meadows o On the way to Iris Meadows, the group passed by several small roadside areas that Ken’s crew had cleared to provide scenic viewsheds through the brush. o When the group arrived at the main bridge at Iris Meadows, we discussed the benefits of constructing some sort of facility like a wildlife viewing platform that would encourage people to linger and enjoy the area in a safe way. o The USFS is exploring opportunities for salmon habitat restoration in Iris Meadows Creek (contact: Perry Edwards).
North Beach and temporary ATV access trail o North Beach is heavily used by campers, picnickers, and ATVs. Due to severe erosion, the main access point is closed, and a temporary trail has been designated for ATVs; this trail is unhardened and unmaintained, and nearly impassable due to mud and roots. 1
o There is a very unique beach tansy growing in parts of the beach fringe that is threatened by increased ATV traffic. Group members felt that this threat could be greatly reduced by designating a clear, safe, hardened ATV trail that would direct traffic and minimize dispersion. o People frequently camp in the forest along both sides of the trail throughout the summer, but because there are no designated campsites, use is highly dispersed. o There is a cabin with an associated shelter and outhouse, but there are no bathroom or shelter facilities to accommodate the large number of day users and others who visit the area (hikers, bikers, ATV riders, boaters, campers). •
Other o The USFS is preparing to do a carrying capacity assessment of the Mud Bay Road system, which will help determine how much commercial and recreational use the area can take (contact: Peggy Marcus). o There is currently one commercial permit in use in the area (Alaska ATV Tours). No other permit applications have been submitted. o There is very minimal conflict between user groups in the area (hikers, bikers, ATVs, etc.). People feel that different uses are very well balanced, and only one complaint has been lodged against Alaska ATV Tours since the operation began on Kruzof about ten years ago. o The Sitka Ranger District is looking at opportunities to do pre-‐commercial thinning in designated timber areas, as well as possible areas for personal use timber harvest and/or small sales (contact: Perry Edwards).
Priorities Identified by the Group (in no particular order) 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9.
Picnic shelter at North Beach. Additional mooring buoy or two at Mud Bay (a dock would be challenged by weather) Mooring buoy at Eagle River Bear-‐proof container at Shelikof trail head Public outhouse at North Beach Hardened camp sites at North Beach Hardened trail to access North Beach Wildlife viewing platform at Iris Meadows. Periodic view sheds through roadside brush along main road through Iris Meadows
The Sitka Collaborative Stewardship Group would like to organize a public meeting in the fall, in partnership with the Sitka Ranger District, to share information and further discuss community priorities for projects on Kruzof Island. This meeting will be an opportunity for the broader community to start learning about USFS activities on Kruzof, and to provide input that the USFS can use in early project development.
Through public meetings and other conversations, we hope to identify partnership opportunities between the USFS and local interest groups, nonprofits, and others to tackle budget-‐related challenges (i.e., maintenance of viewsheds, etc.).
Participants 1. Cheryl Westover – Mayor, City and Borough of Sitka 2. Garry White – Sitka Economic Development Association 3. Jeff Feldpausch – Sitka Tribe of Alaska, Resource Protection 4. Mim McConnell – Assembly, City and Borough of Sitka 5. Ken Rear – Alaska ATV Tours, Greenling Enterprises LLC 6. Lynne McGowan-‐Brandon – Dept. of Parks and Recreation, City and Borough of Sitka 7. Kris Pearson – Coastal Excavation LLC 8. Leland McGee – Sitka Tribe of Alaska, Economic Development 9. Eric Skousen – Sitka Counseling and Prevention Services 10. Ray Friedlander – Sitka Conservation Society 11. Linda Speerstra – U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 12. Jon Martin – U.S. Forest Service, Transition Coordinator 13. Perry Edwards – U.S. Forest Service 14. Peggy Marcus – U.S. Forest Service 15. Zia Brucaya – Sitka Conservation Society
November 6, 2012 Carol Goularte Sitka District Ranger, Tongass National Forest 204 Siganaka Way Sitka, Alaska 99835 Re: Collaboration on priorities for Kruzof Island project planning. Dear District Ranger Goularte: This letter summarizes and shares results from the Sitka Collaborative Stewardship Group’s (SCSG) field trip to Kruzof Island on July 27, 2012. Kruzof is a beloved community resource that provides Sitkans and visitors with a wide range of opportunities for recreation, subsistence, tourism, and small business. As the Sitka Ranger District begins to assess management opportunities in the Kruzof Island landscape, we hope that this letter will provide helpful insights for discussing project ideas, community priorities, and partnership opportunities. We also hope to build an inclusive and ongoing conversation between the Forest Service, the Sitka Collaborative Stewardship Group, and the broader local community. We see this process as an opportunity to expand upon the precedent set by the Peril Project in 2010-‐2011, and we would like to work together to integrate community involvement as early as possible in planning for this new project. Fifteen community members participated in the July field trip to Kruzof Island. We toured some of the most well used areas in and around the Mud Bay road system, and discussed challenges and opportunities related to enhancing community access and environmental benefits throughout the landscape. Attached to this letter is a summary of the specific sites the group visited, and opportunities we identified; below are the overarching themes that emerged. Multiple Resources, Multiple Opportunities. The Mud Bay road system on Kruzof Island presents an excellent opportunity to accomplish numerous management objectives for recreation, wildlife, and economic development. We urge the Sitka Ranger District to design work on Kruzof Island as an “Integrated Resource Management Project” (IRMP) to ensure that these opportunities are efficiently and effectively addressed. An IRMP would not only save taxpayer resources over the long run by combining multiple opportunities, but it would also allow the Forest Service to more quickly meet a number of local needs for recreation, restoration, and economic development. Balanced Uses. Kruzof Island is highly valued by Sitkans and visitors because of the wide range of uses it supports, and the successful balancing of these uses. Facilities on North Beach and Shelikoff Bay provide uniquely different kinds of access and recreation in non-‐competing ways. In addition, Sitkans use Kruzof for many types of subsistence harvest, tourism operations, hiking, biking, ATVs, camping, timber harvest (including salvage), and more. We encourage the Sitka Ranger District to
continue to accommodate this balance by strategically enhancing current uses to meet their full potential (i.e., supporting popular day-‐ and weekend use by providing a few key facilities at North Beach, outlined in the attached trip summary). We also urge the Sitka Ranger District to work with different user groups in town to maintain good working relationships and address user-‐group-‐ specific challenges and opportunities on Kruzof as they arise. Recreation. Recreation is a huge part of community use on the Mud Bay road system, and overall high levels of use indicate the need for some strategic improvements to aid safety and comfort while minimizing human impacts on wildlife. Collaborative group members suggested improvements such as a picnic shelter and public outhouse at North Beach, additional mooring buoys at Mud Bay, a bear-‐proof container at Shelikof trail head, a wildlife viewing platform at Iris Meadows, and hardened campsites and a hardened ATV access trail at North Beach. These enhancements would benefit a large number of residents and non-‐residents, and most would require minimal long-‐term maintenance, which organized user groups, local businesses, non-‐profits, and/or local and tribal agencies may be interested in sharing. Economic Development. The rich resources on Kruzof Island present opportunities for economic development that must be carefully planned to maintain the current balance of uses and protect fragile ecosystems. The Sitka Ranger District’s current carrying capacity assessment for the Mud Bay road system, which will help guide future commercial use permitting on Kruzof, is an excellent start. Collaborative group members discussed the potential for activities such as youth culture camps through Sitka Tribe of Alaska, and/or day trips through Sitka Counseling and Prevention Services, which could be considered as part of this capacity assessment. Another economic opportunity on the horizon is small-‐scale timber, which must be balanced with recreational use and core wildlife habitat. We urge the Sitka Ranger District to work closely with partners to explore these possibilities. Habitat Restoration. Kruzof Island contains valuable fish, bear, deer, and other wildlife habitat, some of which was damaged by past logging. To successfully balance functional wildlife habitat and future logging on Kruzof, core habitat and timber supply areas must be clearly identified, and damaged habitat restored. In the interests of transparency and collaboration, we urge the Sitka Ranger District to meet with partners such as the Sitka Collaborative Stewardship Group to discuss specific restoration needs and how we might jointly develop priorities to jumpstart on-‐the-‐ground projects. There is very little community understanding of habitat restoration needs and timber opportunities on Kruzof, and what the Forest Service has assessed. Recent projects such as the Sitkoh River demonstrate the power of partnerships to leverage funding and support. Partnerships and Collaboration. Landscape-‐scale projects like Kruzof are an efficient way to accomplish multiple management objectives at once, but they require a large amount of resources to plan, finance, and maintain. Planning and implementing projects collaboratively with communities is a great way to gain local support and identify partnerships that can help ease this
resource burden. It is also the best way to bridge gaps in understanding, knowledge and trust between local communities and federal land managers. A project on Kruzof Island will allow us to build on the collaborative lessons of the Peril Project by engaging in earlier and more frequent conversations with the community. Kruzof is an ideal opportunity to engage partners prior to the standard NEPA process for community input, and we hope this opportunity is realized. We appreciate the Sitka Ranger District’s staff time spent working with the Sitka Collaborative Stewardship Group and participating in the recent trip to Kruzof Island. We look forward to continuing our collaborative efforts, and maintaining a fruitful community conversation to help guide future planning for Kruzof. Sincerely, Andrew Thoms Executive Director, Sitka Conservation Society Mim McConnell Member, City and Borough of Sitka Assembly Eric L. Skousen Sitka Counseling and Prevention Services, Harbor Lights Program Kenneth J. Rear Owner and Guide, Alaska ATV Tours Sitka, Alaska Kris Pearson Owner, Coastal Excavation, LLC Sitka, Alaska Attached: Kruzof Island Field Trip Summary, Sitka Collaborative Stewardship Group, July 27, 2012. Cc: Forrest Cole, Tongass National Forest Supervisor Tricia O’Connor, Deputy Tongass National Forest Supervisor Jon Martin, USDA Transition Coordinator
16 • Ground-truthing field notes 20080714 Allen Marine to Nakwasina, Krestof, Kruzof Today was primarily an office day, downloading photos and track from the Katlian visit. But from 6 to 9 PM, Scott had scheduled me as a naturalist on one of SCS’s wildlife cruises, offered periodically throughout the summer in collaboration with Allen Marine. This is an interesting partnership, and reflects well on AM that they have the guts to be so closely associated with a conservation group. AM’s staff naturalist provides the basic interpretation (eagle, sea otter life history, etc), and SCS gives the conservation angle. Passengers are typically 50:50 residents to visitors. Andrew and Yung Yung from the SCS office were also on board, and Carolyn Servid joined us. Since Scott and I had decided to cancel the Friday GT visit to Nakwasina, it was nice to at least get a token look at this famous estuary. Nakwasina has more than twice as much salt marsh and mudflat as Katlian (table, p13), divided into 2 distinct lobes at the mouths of
separate creeks. Highlight of the trip was a brown bear sow with 3 healthy cubs, grazing Lyngbye sedge in the second (westerly) estuary, apparently unconcerned by the tourship idling 150 yards off the beach. We debated whether these were large first-year cubs or runty secondyears. I don’t have pictures to show to Vern, but after the trip debriefed with Dave Lubin who’d seen them on the previous day and thought they were cubs-ofthe-year. He also speculated that Sitka bears were doing exceptionally well by virtue of the abundance of winterkilled deer on the beaches. (I buy that for spring 07 but not spring 08) This loop is great for sea otters. First large pods I’ve seen in quite awhile, somewhere off Inner Point. Alcids in order of abundance: MAMU, COMU, PIGU, and rhinos. Also a single phalarope, early migrant? Andrew found us a whale on the return leg, and the pilot was happy.
Our hike across Kruzof, 0715. Returning on 0716, we followed the same route, except Scott and I checked out the logging road that parallels Eagle estuary. LT = large-tree forest; MT = medium; ST = small-tree forest.
20080715 Gilmer Bay There were 5 of us for this second GT excursion: Scott, Andrew, Natalie Sattler, and Yung Yung ______. Seas were mellow as we ran Pinguina across upper Sitka Sound into Port Krestof, and all the way to the neck of Sukoi Inlet, anchoring at the LTF for the Gilmer Bay logging road. Weather was drizzly and buggy.
Most of the work we wanted to do on this visit was in the large clearcut at Gilmer Bay, where, in conjunction with traditional 14x14 thinning in the 1990s, an unknown but far-sighted forester instituted a complex of 60-foot diameter canopy gaps, paired with unthinned “thickets.” Pat Heuer told Scott that SRD had not yet evaluated these gaps, and that it would be a good project for the GT team.
email@example.com 17 Starting into Eagle estuary. Abundant sedges. I didn’t adequately cruise the marsh with an eye to grazing sign, but we saw bears on both incoming and outgoing hikes. Layout of the Eagle/Sukoi salt marshes is more conducive than Katlian’s to a quick dash for cover, and I would guess that bears make considerably more use of this remote estuary than they do at busier Katlian. Below: Collapsing stringer bridge has a few more years of life before it puts an end to easy ATV access. Riders have constructed a ramp on the northwest (near) side where logs have settled.
I measured the total hike from the LTF to Gilmer at 9 miles on the road. That made an east-side camp prohibitive, as we didn’t want to hike across twice, on both the 15th and 16th. So we brought overnight packs, intending to camp either at Gilmer or somewhere on Twin Lakes, close to the gapped cut. We lacked information on condition of the logging road, but had been told that it was too rough for mountain bikes. Since we had a large party and didn’t anticipate working on salmon streams, we saved the weight of a rifle and packed only bear spray. Andrew spotted a browny grazing as we pulled into the LTF, and about half a dozen deer including a buck, all of whom trotted off in alarm, unlike the ones we’d watched from the Allen Marine boat, and the Fairweather running through Peril Strait. Perhaps there’s some poaching going on here? As these sightings indicated, the Eagle Creek estuary has outstanding wildlife values. This salt marsh is contiguous with that of the Sukoi narrows, and if you consider it a single system, combining salt marsh and mudflat acreages, it ranks 8th out of the 26 largest SCUA estuaries (better-known Katlian ranks only 17th). The walk to the head of the Eagle marsh is delightful. At the top, it’s easy to slip up onto the logging road (too easy; road engineers could have done wildlife a service by keeping this road set back farther from the estuary fringe.) We’d heard that the lower bridge was impassable, but it’s been maintained by ORV users and still permits access to the Gilmer Bay roads. When the stringers
Lovage is abundant in the high marsh, and probably important to bear diet as in McCarthy’s Admiralty scat study.
18 • Ground-truthing field notes 1977 USFS aerial of Eagle estuary. Google Earth has no high-res imagery for this area and these “resource photos” are my best resolution. Photography was only 8 years after the first logging, when alder was closing over the spurs and most heavily disturbed surfaces but clearcuts were otherwise still open.
Firmly cemented ejecta (orange) sandwiches a horizontal layer of fine silt, presumably water-laid but also now cemented. This part of Kruzof is mapped as uniformly Sitka graywacke, but is actually capped with variable thickness of debris from the Edgecumbe eruption. • My fingers span the outer 100 rings in this 400-year-old, 16-inch yellow cedar.
eventually drop into the creek, they are unlikely to create a barrier to passage on this large system, but ATV riders will be forced to find a ford, which will initiate new impacts. Replacing this 120-foot-span bridge would be hugely expensive, however, and I personally question whether the combined benefits of recreation, potential restoration projects, and young growth timber extraction are worth the cost, once you factor in the risks of road renovation (invasive species, bear kill, etc). More thoughts on these options follow in my summary comments. About 100 dollies, 6-12 inches, schooled under the bridge. No sign of salmon running yet, though, which was a relief since we hadn’t brought a rifle. AWC shows a pink & chum run for at least a mile up the creek. Geology of the Kruzof crossing is about the most uniform you can find on the Tongass; nearly 100% of the road material is “interstratified Tertiary/Cretaceous metagraywacke and argillite.” Even the glacial till is composed entirely of this rock as far as my lay eyes could detect. Stump size in the clearcuts was impressive for an upland surface: lots of 3 & 4-footers and occasional 7-footers. I’m not sure how much the discontinuous ash/pumice blanket contributed to the high forest productivity here. The treesize layer currently shows only medium-tree forest along the cross-island road, but from what I saw, most of the logged original forest would have qualified as large-tree. Note on
Typical roadside cover of red alder on the first half of the Kruzof crossing. Diameters are generally somewhat smaller than at Katlian or Corner Bay, as would be expected from their age (~9 years younger). Up to Twin Lakes, the road has been brushed by ATV users.
the preceding map that only one patch of this remains, a fan on the creek draining Twin Lakes northeast to Sukoi Inlet. In the few places where old growth still contacts the logging road, there’s considerable yellow-cedar. The 1969 and 70 cuts targeted the productive large-tree stands, and left the scrubby patches where yellow-cedar tends to grow. Until the pass before the lake, we didn’t see much evidence of yellow-cedar decline, and even there it’s sparse. Hennon maps it only in one polygon upslope from the 3 easternmost 1969 clearcuts. Walking the roads, you could get the impression that red alder dominates the second growth, but the 1996 orthophotos show that it’s just a narrow belt along the road. We discussed whether there was a potential for partial logging of this alder fringe. I wouldn’t want to see it substantially reduced for a number of reasons: 1) Mature red alder is great habitat for birds and small mammals.
1996 orthophoto. Red alder patches traced in green.
2) As Brad Kriekhaus points out, over-arching alder inhibits invasive species that are otherwise abundant on logging roads. This Gilmer Bay road system currently has the fewest invasives of any I’ve seen on the Tongass (virtually no Phalaris!), and it would be nice to keep it that way. Any renewed logging or restoration activity has high potential to bring in new invasives. 3) These young alders could grow for another 50 years before reaching full senescence, gaining in habitat value throughout that time. I like to imagine what the road will look like, lined with big-limbed, craggy 25inchers. 4) There just isn’t enough volume here to make much money for anybody, even if alder takes off as a Southeast sawtimber species. When that happens, greater Katlian has about 20 times as much red alder as Eagle Creek Road, at one third the distance from Sitka (p 15). I measure a total of 48 acres on the orthophoto below, compared to 950 acres at Katlian.
20 • Ground-truthing field notes
Thinned 1960 second growth, before the road turns NW to Twin Lakes. These are about the largest diameters we saw on the Gilmer-Eagle road. Conifer regrowth is slower on the Gilmer side.
Final touches to an alder pole. Right: grazed NUPO
That said, it probably wouldn’t do much damage to cut a small portion of the roadside alders, as long as care were taken not to overly reduce the invasive-inhibiting shade, and if logging equipment were power-sprayed to eliminate clinging seeds before departure from Sitka. If that were done, thinning would probably improve growth rate of the residual alders. But the Gilmer-Eagle road is definitely not the place to institute an aggressive, long-term second-growth alder program where intentional disturbance perpetuates the species. We didn’t notice it on the westward hike, but red alder stops suddenly in the pass to Twin Lakes. The pass itself is boggy upland with little alder of any kind. Farther west, in the large 1960 Gilmer Bay clearcut where gapping occurred, only Sitka alder grows. More on the significance of this below.
The road is less thoroughly brushed as you approach the lake. By the time we could see down to the lake, we were confronting d5 bushwacking, with many branches leaning across the road and small saplings growing in the median. It looked pretty unlikely that we could complete the loop around North Twin Lake by nightfall, let alone have time to do any surveying in the gaps. We followed an informal spur trail down to the lake shore, and there found a dented, narrow, ~16-foot river scow. The plug was missing but someone had jammed a stick into the drain hole. No oars or paddles could be found nearby. We tested the boat and it didn’t leak badly. The air photos of Twin Lake showed extensive shallow margins. It looked like we could pole around to the northwest corner where–even if the road was heavily overgrown– we would still have quick access to the gapped clearcut.
firstname.lastname@example.org 21 1977 photo of North Twin Lake. Contour interval 100 feet. Below: Natalie poling our scow along the pond-lily fringe. Bottom: pano of our camp.
Andrew’s machete saved the day. He hacked us a couple poles of Sitka alder.* I even found that with the longest one I could sit in the bow and do a reasonable job of paddling while the others pushed. While we were loading our noble craft, an adult common loon approached us from halfway across the lake, calling constantly. I got the impression it doesn’t see many people here. Immediately on launching we encountered a natural history puzzler. Dozens of pond-lily stalks had been nipped off 6 to 9 inches above the water. Okay, so the first puzzler is; why are these stalks sticking up so high?! Neither leaves nor flowers are normally held so far above the water; they both float on the surface. I guess the answer is that when stems are unburdened of the weight, they rise up out of the water. * Only later did we fully digest the implications of this switch from red to Sitka alder.
But who could have clipped them? McDonald and Cook cite a record of attempted beaver introduction to Kruzof in 1925, but no recent or historical records, and we later found absolutely no sign on this perfectly suitable beaver lake. Could deer or bear have swum out 50 yards from shore to graze Nuphar? Seemed pretty unlikely. We never did see a goose on the lake, but they clearly nest and molt here, judging from turds and feathers near our camp. Although I’ve never before seen clear evidence
22 • Ground-truthing field notes Typical cover on the road west of our camp. Probably averaged d3-d5 bushwacking. We were surprised to find this relatively fresh flagging, since the road appeared not to have been travelled in several years. Did SRD come in by float plane? Three-shot vertical-format panorama of the most “intentional”-looking of the gaps. Scott waded into the salmonberries to give scale. Occasional menziesia but otherwise ~80% RUSP, nothing growing beneath.
After dinner we had about 2 hours light to check out the gaps. Andrew scrambled upslope through the scrubby old growth north of camp to get an overview of the Gilmer valley, while the rest of us bashed northwest on the overgrown logging road. Pat Heuer gave Scott the prescriptions and maps for the Gilmer Bay gapping project as a set of pdfs. I georeferenced the hand-drawn layout and included it as a layer in my ArcPad project. With this, we hoped to navigate to specific gaps, “thickets,” and unthinned corridors. The sketch map was done in pre-GPS days, and from the difficulty I had rubber-sheeting it to the current roads layer and orthophotos, of goose-feeding on Nuphar, I concluded they were the culprits. I concluded it had been It took awhile to get the hang of manuevering our scow, but nowhere near so long hand-traced over an as it would have taken to thrash our way around the lake on the abandoned road. We found a section of beach in the NW corner with well-drained pumice for the tents. Scott unrectified low-elevation rigged his cook tarp over the scow, which made a nice place to sit and scratch no-see-um aerial. But with the map in ArcPad and a GPS bites out of the rain. The bugs were so thick that Andrew & Scott lit up smudge-fire position, we could at cigars. least be confident we
email@example.com 23 Sketch map of the gapping prescription, superimposed on 1977 USFS aerial. Red line is from the roads layer. Note imperfect fit, probably resulting from tracing over an unrectified aerial.
were in the “ballpark.” The logging road soon reaches a saddle NW of the lake, then turns SW toward Gilmer Bay. After about 1000 feet, we came to a mapped corridor. In concept, the design is excellent, and whoever cooked this up in the 1990s was way ahead of his/her time. Imagine a densely interlocking canopy of young, unthinned spruce and hemlock, free of slash, providing connectivity between the road and the old growth at the top of the 1970 clearcut. Immediately fringing it is a dense sprinkling of 60-foot canopy gaps, full of Vaccinium and winter deer forbs COCA/RUPE/COAS. Unfortunately, reality was nothing like the vision, for a suite of interrelated reasons. Most importantly, this 38-year-old forest–at least what we could see of it near the road–is disappointingly sparse and scrubby. The slow regrowth rates are hard to explain in view of the large stump sizes of the original old growth; this was a highly productive forest. But compared to the Starrigavan second growth, logged 4 years later, this is a pretty pathetic stand, with wide-spaced, shorter spruces, rarely big enough for the kind of cabin logs that Starrigavan already provides. Only in isolated patches is crown closure complete enough to give snow interception in winter. That would have been even more true in the 1990s, when thinners were tasked with creating so-called corridors through the chaotic jungle of
Sitka alder is the dominant road border in the 1970 Gilmer Bay clearcut.
24 • Ground-truthing field notes
Scott Harris pano looking southeast from camp; continues on facing page
saplings, thorn shrubs, and Sitka alder. We didn’t see a single red alder in the Gilmer Bay clearcut. Apparently, the seed source from which alder recolonized this area was the high avalanche chutes to the north, where Sitka alder dominates (examples marked on preceding aerial). In winter, unlike red alder, the flexible stems of Sitka alder lay over beneath snow loads, often damaging nearby conifer saplings. But like red alder, Sitka alder can “capture” the early stages of forest succession. Perhaps this capture, combined with conifer sapling damage, explains some of the retarded forest growth that we saw in the Gilmer clearcut. Because thinners didn’t have much of a forest to work with in implementing the vision of corridors/ gaps/thickets, there may never have been anything close to compliance with the orderly-appearing prescription map. When we got to the first mapped unthinned corridor, a few remnant canes of RUSP indicated that the crown had only recently closed. Nothing on the floor but oak- and shield fern; nearly zero winter forage. From my arcpad GPS position, we were fairly confident of having located the intersection of the corridor with the road. So far, so good. But as we climbed, we quickly encountered thinning. In this and subsequent mapped “unthinned corridors,” we were unable to trace them very far and began to wonder if they’d ever in fact been created. I doubt there are any continuous corridors connecting the Gilmer road with the old growth above the clearcuts. We did investigate 3 “gaps” along the margins of the first mapped “corridor.” The first one looked almost
“textbook,” but the others may simply have been natural gaps that happened to lie at the edge of the patch of closed conifers. I took 3 “vertical panoramas” (3 vertical format 18-mm photos stitched together on their long sides; looks like a normal horizontal format image) to document these gaps. I settled on this method last September on POW to best capture an entire gap in a composite image without the distortion of a fisheye lens. The first gap was the most crisply delineated and “intentional-looking” that we found on the trip. RUSP 80%, with some menziesia, almost nothing growing beneath, as Scott determined when he waded into it. The second gap looked random and unintentional. Wandering, amoeboid border, RUSP-dominated, with RIBR, OPHO, SARA, bit of TITR. No winter forage but the TITR. The third gap: Giant SARA on the east side, but like the others RUSP-dominated and zip winter deer forage. So, it looks like these Kruzof gaps–created or natural–are repeating the disappointing pattern we’ve seen throughout the Sitka Ranger District: overwhelmingly captured by summer berry shrubs and minimal presence of winter deer plants. At least hemlock flush did not appear to be a problem.
20080716 Gilmer back to Sitka After breakfast, all 5 of us headed back into the 1970 clearcut for more gap-hunting. At the pass, we turned south up “french poodle ridge,” so-named for the remnant patch of old-growth on an otherwise scalped N-S trending crest above the lake. The corridor that had
firstname.lastname@example.org 25 “french poodle ridge”
been prescribed on this ridge made sense in theory, but turned out to be a doghair weave of Sitka alders and very small spruces; in winter it does not intercept snow. After a bit more of our GT-style daisy picking, Andrew became interested in Sitka alder and split off to measure diameters with Natalie and Yung Yung while Scott and I followed the road southwest toward Gilmer Bay. We thought we located the beginnings of several more of the prescribed unthinned corridors, but in each case, like yesterday, as Right: SH photo looking west into the gapped 1970 clearcut from french poodle ridge. Conifers have generally not closed canopy. Below: For this first of the prescribed “corridors” on french poodle ridge, thinners had nothing to work with but Sitka alder and scattered spruce saplings.
26 • Ground-truthing field notes 3-shot vertical pano of natural gap near the first unthinned french-poodle ridgeline corridor with RUSP, HELA, PRAL, ACMI, no winter deer forage Another pano in gap on main road with RUSP, tall SARA, nothing beneath. About 50 ft across with enclosing conifers also ~50 ft.
map shows alternating gaps and thickets along the road, spaced at roughly every 200 feet. No such pattern could be detected in the field. We made it down to about 2000 feet from Gilmer Bay before we had to turn back to meet the rest of the crew at camp. The 1977 post-logging photo shows that a ~1-tree buffer was left along the beach, which had already mostly blown down. That was a regrettable lack of foresight; If even a few hundred feet of old growth had been left above the beach, this would have been an awesome outer-coast cabin site, like Shelikof, a magnet for adventurous Sitkans. We later heard from the rest of our crew, who had bushwacked down to the ~500-foot-wide OG buffer on Gilmer Creek, that it was a lovely stream. AWC shows a run of coho, pink and chum almost to the top of this little system. In a few places, small tributary streams are funneled along the road exposing large boulders before turning downslope. But in general we haven’t seen need for stream-crossing rehab. Tribs are generally steep and fishless. You we climbed, the closed-canopy corridor evaporated. Gaps could be imagined, couldn’t cite fish restoration needs but may simply have been natural brushy openings. Of course, as long as forest as justification for reopening this succession remains retarded, created gaps are unnecessary, at least for providing road. summer forage. Only after the matrix closes canopy do the gaps become This is the cleanest road really valuable (and then, only if they contain Vacc/COCA/RUPE/COAS). I’ve seen for invasive species. Considering the abundance of Sitka alder, at least along the road where we Consistently over-arching canopy surveyed, that canopy closure could be a long way off. shades out reed canary grass We continued down the road, southwest toward Gilmer Bay, photographing (almost completely absent) and the apparently random gaps and thickets on the way, and using ArcPad to other non-natives. try to find the intersections of unthinned corridors. The prescription sketch As mentioned earlier, the
Unthinned thicket with super-dense stems, many dead ~2 inchers, survivors only ~5 inch. Zip understory. Very large original trees, 2-5 feet diam, cut very high for some reason (logging on snow?). Three-shot pano in open forest with stumps 4-5ft diam, unthinned, several Sitka alders recently shade-killed. Just MADI, Thelypteris, sprigs of small RUSP, no winter forage. These 2 panoramas above show conditions from which, in theory, a long unthinned corridor could be maintained, running from Gilmer Creek across the road to top of the clearcut. Unfortunately, given the very slow growth rates and patchy nature of conifer recolonization, there is currently no place with continuous conifer cover for more than a tree length or so. Although generally overgrown, there were a few open places in the road. Hard to explain why nothing has yet sprung up here (browsing is certainly a factor though). These were some of the few places where Vaccinium and low winter forbs were common. Note very small size of encompassing conifers, given that this is a 38-year-old cut.
original upland forest in the Gilmer 1970 clearcut was majestic. Maximum stump diameter about 7 feet. Many 5 footers; mean stump size maybe 30 inches. In fact, the former logged forest was large-tree almost everywhere weâ€™ve looked, from Gilmer back to Eagle estuary. Other forests Iâ€™ve seen on the Cretaceous Sitka graywacke are not necessarily this productive; is it rather a result of the cap of Edgecumbe ejecta that we saw exposed in several places? We broke camp and poled the scow back to its caching place on the southern lakeshore. Stopped en route to move an
28 • Ground-truthing field notes
Scott went ashore to take this picture of us poling. Note orange Edgecumbe ejecta on slope failure in the 1970 clearcut. • SH pano of wind forest in the pass. • Most of the summer use of salmonberry we noted was on first-year (~knee-high) plants; taller second-year plants are more fibrous and less palatable.
abandoned inflatable and car battery (flown in or by ATV before roads overgrew?) back farther from the waterline. Hiking out, we took care to note the first appearance of red alder. It was in the pass (marked on aerial, p 19). Also in the pass, Scott climbed up into an even-aged hemlock wind forest, one of the few places where original forest can still be accessed directly from the road. This stand can be detected as smooth canopy in the extreme upper left of the p 19 orthophoto. It’s easier to spot the increase of something than to recognise its gradual decline. Returning eastward, we noted that bear sign was considerably more abundant in the last mile above the estuary. Scat frequency increased (mostly sedge contents, some quite fresh), and marked trees with hair sticking to sap were common. On our return hike Yung Yung flattened and collected beer and pop cans–2 grocery bags full–that had been jettisoned by motorized travellers. I guess brushing ATV trails is thirsty work. In the estuary we spooked a smallish brown bear at about 200 yards. Breeze was at our backs and it probably smelled us. Dashed up into the forest. Blue-eyed grass, actually a tiny iris, Sisyrinchium idahoense, is
About a mile from head of estuary we finally located a gap (created or natural?) with more winter forage than we’ve seen so far, well used by deer. Huckleberry, stumps with refuge Vacc/COCA/COAS. • This hotfoot trail led away from a 5-inch diameter spruce sapling that had been recently thrashed, bitten and snapped off at 7 feet. Bruin was “feelin his oats.” • Below: some of the logs on the far side of this stringer bridge have settled to the ground. It will soon block this tributary stream, about a half mile above the main Eagle Creek bridge.
blooming in a fairly large patch in the damp uplift meadows at the top of Eagle estuary. We had noted a few plants on the way in yesterday but they were still in bud, whereas today the flowers were open and unmistakeable. It was sunny when we got to the estuary, compared to yesterday’s drizzle and low overcast. Could it be that this flower opens and closes with shifting sun and clouds, like a gentian? After traveling a short distance down the head of the estuary, Scott and I turned back up onto the logging road while the others stayed out in the salt marsh. There are at least 3 places in the final mile where old log stringer bridges cross creeks or marshy spots. When these eventually fail they will impede fish movement. They should either be rebuilt (if the road is to be kept) or taken out (if it’s retired). As noted above, the last mile above the estuary had
more bear sign (scats, marked trees) than all the rest of the road put together. But as Scott and I paralleled the estuary, we saw even more. As upvalley, scats contained mostly sedges. A couple had underripe blueberries; no fish scats yet. Obviously, brownies are using the road daily to commute between salt marsh, fens, and salmonfishing habitats. Summary thoughts: Last year, after examining canopy gaps on Prince of Wales and Chichagof, Bob and I began to wonder if we couldn’t be creating them at an earlier stage in succession, rather than waiting 40 years as Ray Slayton is doing on POW. We imagined cutting gaps as part of the process of precommercial thinning, which in theory might allow a skillful and educated operator to strategically release Vacc/COCA/RUPE/COAS, while
30 • Ground-truthing field notes avoiding RUSP/OPHO/SARA etc. That is pretty much what was attempted here at Gilmer Bay, although the thinners probably didn’t know RUSP from RUPE and simply released whatever was on the site, regardless of winter forage value. The results are uninspiring. But it doesn’t make me want to give up on early designation of gaps. Ray Slayton repeatedly emphasized the importance of siting gaps on patches of residual winter forage species. And the longer you wait, the fewer your options. One unavoidable implication of our Gilmer experience is that effective gapping will probably be more expensive than we’d hoped, in part because of the need for repeat visits to take remedial action (knocking back RUSP, etc). and in part because gapping is going to involve a long learning curve, as managers slowly acquire a better understanding of how to manipulate succession in the service of fish and wildlife. Back to the road-repair/maintenance question: Currently it appears that a very few ATV riders are travelling the road, and only as far as North Twin Lake, leaving the road unbrushed from that point on. In addition to the lake itself, the road gives access at several points to an extensive complex of bogs and fens south of Eagle Creek. These are probably used by a few deer hunters. Personally, I have a hard time assembling the various
Gilmer/Eagle “managment opportunities” into a compelling rationale for upgrading or even maintaining this road system: 1) Federal $ are tightening. This is not one of the SCUA’s top destinations for either timber or recreation, and we didn’t see need for fish stream restoration that would require road access. 2) Places where stringer bridges are failing could be dealt with by the dynamite SWAT team. 3) Currently, the Eagle/Gilmer road system is exceptionally free of invasive species. Any renewed activity involving heavy road equipment (for that matter, even the existing ATV use) reopens the door to noxious weeds. 4) Certainly there is potential for gap enhancement of second growth, especially in the somewhat fastergrowing forest east of Twin Lakes. But in today’s economy, gapping cost will probably need to be defrayed by YG commercial extraction, or at least a biofuels operation, and for the above reasons, that could be a mistake. Because my concluding thoughts are still pretty unformed, I’ll phrase this as a question, rather than a recommendation: Is it time to retire the Gilmer/Eagle timber LUD, and make the whole thing a roadless OGR?
I close with this SH photo of an effective gap. Definitely it was the exception– the only Vaccinium-dominated gap we found. But at least it shows that what we’re after is possible, if not here then elsewhere on the SRD.
Sitka Conservation Society
IRMP - Nakwasina and Krestof beach Fringe Stand 20 This stand was considered high priority for investigation because some areas were possibly never thinned, and the 80â€™s thinning prescription included managing slash for wildlife trails. Snow depth was 1-2â€? in most of the stand and up to ankle deep in the alder and treelesss slide areas. My notes on understory only apply to the shrub layer. Most of the forbs were under the snow. We saw one deer in a slide gulley and occasional deer tracks. There are small areas of restoration opportunities, such as natural gap maintenance and possibly pruning to let in more light to the hillside stands. However, we felt there was no need for a broad-scale restoration prescription for this stand.
Stand 3010-20 Nakwasina Sound logged 1963 thinned 1980-83
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Photo point 0 The best deer forage was typically at the alder - conifer edges. We also saw a higher density of trails at these edges.
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Slide paths in these Nakwasina units were completely composed of alder or no tress. Snow depth was ankle deep.
The hillsides were lower productivity (smaller stumps and young growth), had more hemlock than the flats, and had natural gaps in a stem-exlcusion matrix. These stands had MEFE and RUSP and occasional vaccinium (inset photo)
2 â€˘ Sitka Conservation Society Photo point 3
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Strip of old growth forest between stands 3 and 20.
This photo is fairly typical of the flatter ground component of stand 20, This stand had three distinct habitat features within the beach fringe - alder-dominated slide areas, lower productivity hillsides, and higher productivity (colluvial/ alluvial?) ground - that added to overall stand heterogeneity. Thinning slash (26+ years old) did not imped travel.
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Strip of old growth forest between stands 3 and 20.
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The old grwoth strip and stand 20.
Sitka Conservation Society
Old Growth Strip
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We investigated the strip of old growth forest between stands 3 and 20 to determine what the original forest and understory may have been. This stand had abundant vaccinium and about twice the density of deer trails.
Stand 3 Stand 3 was considered high priority for investigation because because the thinning contraction included managing slash for wildlife trails. Our conclusions for restoration opportunities were the same as stand 20. Above. Hillside areas of stand 3 were similar to stand 20 RUSP, MEFE, and vaccinium in natural gaps.
Stand 3010-03 Nakwasina Sound logged 1962 thinned 1980-82
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Above. The northern part of stand 3 we walked through was scubby forest. It was difficult travel.
Left. Approximately 20â€? cored spruce showed 34 rings.
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Flatter ground of stand 3
4 â€˘ Sitka Conservation Society Stands 127 and 134 Stand 3090-127 Krestof Sound logged 1959 thinned 1980-82
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Stand 3090-134 Krestof Sound logged 1959 unthinned Top. Scrubby forest in stand 127. Middle. The majority of stand 127 is in great shape - heterogeneity, edge habitat and natural gaps with abundant vaccinium. We determined there were no restoration needs here.
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Natural gaps in the unthinned Stand 134.
Sitka Conservation Society
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Stands 184 and 131 Photo point 4 Stand 3090-184 Degroff Bay logged 1967 unthinned
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Stand 3090-184 Degroff Bay logged 1960 unthinned
Stand 184 stood out as having good restoration and thinning byproduct opportunities. Marcel identified several cabin-log quality trees. We felt there was a slightly higher density of deer trails here than other units, and the vaccinium on the forest-beach edge was heavily browsed. There was virtually no understory in the stand.
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6 â€˘ Sitka Conservation Society The old growth forest at the edge of stand 184 had abundant vaccinium.
The portion of stand 184 we walked through was scrubby wet-ground forest. It looked like most of the logging occured in a very narrow strip along the beach - which is now in stem exclusion. This strip is too narrow to benefit from any restoration efforts.
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